Last June, the Walrus published a piece on the limitations of high fantasy.  I find the notion of genre parameters silly and old-fashioned, and was surprised to find the most reputable magazine in Canada perpetuating such notions.

So I wrote an angry letter, which they didn’t print.  Here it is:

In Emily Landau’s piece Slaying Dragons, Landau posits that the high fantasy subgenre has regressed to a state of imaginative restriction, which forces writers to situate their works within familiar historical contexts and rely on banal tropes derivative of Tolkien. I worry about the preconceptions this sort of pigeonholing perpetuates, especially since it’s taken so long for fantasy to gain mainstream and academic credence.

There’s an abundance of contemporary writers who subvert such notions, among them is Canadian author Steven Erikson. Genre categories have never been indicative of quality – every genre has good and bad writers. It is extraordinary, even fantastical, to read that some still think otherwise.

Chris Hunter

Anyway, I picked up the recent issue to find that someone called Doug Howat had written in with the same critque, only with a far-less erudite style, and a god-damn clever title: Game of Stones.

Here it is:

Emily Landau fails to mention the Canadian fantasy author Steven Erikson (“Slaying Dragons,” June). His bestselling Malazan Book of the Fallen series turns many of the tropes she laments on their heads. Moreover, her thesis is tautological. She questions the limits that exist within borders she imposed by writing about “high fantasy.” To criticize a genre’s boundaries is akin to complaining that a hockey game is running up against the boards. If she desires fewer tropes, she should look into speculative fiction, or the intersection of high fantasy and speculative fiction.” 

English: Canadian novelist Steven Erikson read...
English: Canadian novelist Steven Erikson reading a book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it’s fantastic that we both mentioned Erikson. Right on, Doug.


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